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What is cast iron?

Alloys of iron and carbon with

more than 2.11% carbon are
called cast irons.

Cast iron

Family of ferrous alloys

Cast into desired shape not worked
2-4% C and 1-3% Si
Instability of Fe3C:
Cementite / graphite flakes / graphite

Classification of cast iron

Type of cast Graphite


Fast cooling rates




Slow cooling rates


Spherical Yes

White iron +
annealing heat



Additions made so
that nodules of
graphite form
instead of flakes



Iron rich end of the Fe-C phase diagram

White cast iron

Fe3C + pearlite
Hard, brittle
Shows a white crystalline
fractured surface
Excellent wear resistance
High compressive stress

White Cast Iron



White cast iron (Contd.)

Has excellent wear resistance

But is very brittle
Finds use as

balls for grinding mills,

liners for cement mixers and
rolls for paper manufacture

Gray cast iron

During slow solidification carbon in
Fe separates or graphitizes to form
separate graphite flakes

Microstructure of gray
cast iron
Separate graphite
flakes form



Ferritic vs.Pearlitic gray iron

If all the carbon is in the form of graphite, we
have ferritic gray iron, where the graphite
flakes are embedded in a matrix of ferrite
If only a part of the carbon is in the form of
graphite, we have the pearlitic gray iron,
with pearlite as the matrix.

General characteristics/advantages
of gray cast iron
Cheaper than steel, as temperature to be
attained for making it is several hundred
degrees lower than for casting steel. Also
control of impurities is not critical here, as in
steel making.
It has excellent fluidity, even large complex
shapes can be cast advantageously.
Excellent machinability, as chip formation is
promoted by the graphite flakes. In addition the
flakes serve as a lubricant for the cutting tool.

of gray cast iron
The wear resistance of gray iron is very good, as
graphite flakes act as lubricant.
The damping capacity (ability to damp vibrations)
of gray iron is superior to that of steel
Can be alloyed to improve properties, e.g. Nihard
iron with 4%Ni and 1.5%Cr has excellent wear
Graphite flakes are sharp at their tips and act like
internal cracks or stress raisers. For this reason
gray iron is brittle and shows only about 0.5%
elongation in tension.

Great at dampening!

Relative ability of ferrous metals to dampen

vibrations. The energy absorbed per cycle, or
specific damping capacity of these can differ by
more than 10 times.

Factors that influence the formation

of graphite
Cooling rate
Thick cross sections or castings in sand moulds
tend to have graphite, as the cooling rate is slow.
Chill castings (in metal moulds) and thin cross
sections tend to have cementite.
This effect can also be seen in the fracture
appearance across the cross section varying from
white at the surface to gray inside. The transition
region has the mottled appearance

Factors that influence the formation

of graphite
Alloying elements:
Silicon strongly promotes graphitization.
Effect of alloying elements other than Si is
described in terms of
Si equivalent = %Si+3(%C)+0.3(%Ni)
Increasing C in the melt promotes graphite
formation, while Mo and Cr hinder

Silicon promotes graphitization

Stress-strain curves in tension and compression

for Class 20 and Class 40 cast irons

Uses of gray iron

The good damping capacity and the high compressive
strength make it suitable as a base for erection of
Ease of machining, good wear resistance and damping
capacity are utilized in applications such as locomotive
and internal combustion engine cylinder blocks and heads
Ease of casting and low cost make it suitable for flywheels
and counterweights for lifts
Niresist with 20%Ni and 2%Cr has excellent corrosion
resistance and heat resisting properties and is used for
handling alkalis at high temperatures.

Malleable cast iron

White cast iron (typical composition 2.5%C and
1%Si)+ prolonged heat treatment at 900-950 oC
followed by very slow cooling
During this treatment cementite decomposes to
the more stable form (graphite). The free carbon
precipitates in the form of spheroidal particles

Temper graphite in
malleable iron (Fe2.9%C-1.5%Si0.53%Mn-0.06%P0.22%S-0.08%Ni0.1%Cu-0.09%Cr0.003%Bi)
The casting was
at 950 C, held 10 h,
furnace cooled to
720 C, held 16 h,
and air cooled.

Malleable cast iron-Contd.

Has a tensile strength up to 700 MPa,
with an elongation of 10-15%
They are more expensive than gray irons,
because of the heat treatment involved.
They are used in applications such as
automobile crankshafts, chain links and

graphite(SG) cast iron
Small quantities of Mg (modifier)
added to the melt to produce this iron
The basic composition of the melt is 3-4%C and
The fairly high Si equivalent produces
graphitisation during solidification.
The modifier has the effect of making the growth
rate of graphite same in all directions, so that a
spherical shape results

Contrasting gray and nodular/ductile

cast iron
Separate graphite
flakes form

Mg added to molten iron

helps spherodise graphite





cast iron

Gray graphite as

Nodular graphite as

Nodular iron (Contd.)

Nodular iron is a major engineering
material, as it combines the advantages of
steel with the processing economies of iron
Tensile strength ranges from 400 to 700
MPa, with elongation in the range 10-18%
Agricultural components, industrial fan
hubs, coke oven doors, crankshafts and
gears are some of the applications

Applications of ductile cast irons